By Owei Lakemfa
Brother Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State has made a call on President Muhammadu Buhari to set the tone for a debate on restructuring in the country. I don’t know why people like teasing the President who had said he does not know what restructuring means even when it was in his party manifesto.
When too much pressure was pilled on him, Buhari in his 2018 New Year speech declared: “When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.” If an old man has been so honest on an issue, why should young men like Dickson insist on pulling his legs?
How do you expect a man to give what he does not have? For the President, Nigeria’s structures are well built, so he will not tolerate any restructuring. If leaders like Buhari do not see anything wrong with our skewed federalism, why worry them? It is for those of us who see a structurally defective country that need to push for restructuring rather than waste time with the beneficiaries of a parasitic system. Even amongst the believers of restructuring, there are many who merely want it in form not content. Such believers can talk glibly about restructuring the country on regional or zonal basis, but when it comes to resource control, they stutter and stammer. They want the juice from the oil produced in the Niger Delta shared to all, but want to keep for themselves, the products, minerals and funds they generate in their own part of the country.
Generally, Nigeria is a big feast to which many are called but very few are chosen. For those chosen, and those who hope to be called to ‘come and eat’ there is a big battle to fence others off or ask them to wait for their turn. This is the philosophy behind the “No Vacancy in the Presidency” campaign. The latest major campaigner is the former Military dictator of Lagos State, retired Brigadier General Buba Marwa who declared: “He (Buhari) will return for the second time by the grace of God, and for that, I have no doubt all those vying for Aso Villa will wait till 2023” He is not the only one asking others to wait, top people in the Presidency and the Federal Executive have also sent the same message. The latter added a promissory note, offering the same Presidency in 2023 to both Igbos and Yorubas if they back Buhari to return to power. In other words, the Buhari government is selling one product to two different groups and does not see an integrity deficiency in such act.
Those who question the whole process or demand a level playing field in the elections need to keep their mouths shut or face the consequences. There is the pro-democracy activist, Deji Adeyanju who had the temerity to protest in front of the Police Headquarters demanding that the police be neutral in the 2019 general elections. He was seized and detained in Abuja for allegedly constituting a security breach. Then he was moved to the prisons in Keffi, Nasarawa State. His case evolved into a murder charge for which he had previously been discharged and acquitted. For this, he spent Christmas and New Year in the Kano Prisons. A High Court in Abuja admitted him to bail while a Magistrate Court in Kano ruled he be committed to prison. The Police with head office in Abuja, preferred to obey the Kano Magistrate rather than the Abuja Judge. There is a high possibility that Adeyanju might be moved to the Boko Haram-infested Sambisa Forest on treason charges, and if he continues to be stubborn, he can be deported to Chad. This is not improbable. In 1980, when the Majority Leader of the Borno State House of Assembly, Alhaji Abdulrahman Shugaba Darman became a torn in the flesh of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, he was deported to Chad. I hope Farooq Kperogi has learnt a lesson from his column being yanked off a major newspaper for his anti-Buhari flavour. He should also learn from the Adeyanju story and not assume that he cannot be further disciplined just because he shoots his fiery prose arrows from the United States.
I must say men like Marwa who are shouting that the Presidency is not vacant, are not doing much, at least not as much as those who have moved to the next level of garnering votes for Buhari ahead of the elections. Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state who is still being roasted in the public space for allegedly collecting bribes, has announced he has 5 million princely votes from his state to give Buhari. The controversial Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) which has been fingered in the murderous run of Fulani herdsmen in the Benue Valley, says it has 20 million votes wrapped for Buhari. The pro-Buhari Liberty Movement has announced it has 30 million secured votes for the President while the Buhari-Osibanjo Dynamic Support Group has announced it has 40 million votes locked down. These are frightening number of votes waiting to be off-loaded for Buhari. This is why I disagree with the under counting by the youthful white lion of Kogi State, Governor Yahya Bello when after consulting his marabouts, announced that Buhari scored 30.8 million votes in the elections due in February.
I hope the President’s supporters will realize that only a few are invited even to partake in the crumbs. So when millions cry of hunger, it is not because they are anti-Buhari, but they are actually starving. Given the fertile lands in the country, even if we characterize the hungry as lazy youths, we still need to give them a little to eat so they will have enough strength to go to farm and wait for the harvest. It is quite logical to me that those who are over fed and belching cannot accept that there are millions of Nigerians who go to bed hungry. It is natural that those who take from the national till cannot accept there is poverty in the land. Those fed in Government Houses and state banquets, cannot tolerate the cry of the hungry.
It is instructive that many of the foot soldiers who shoot down every debate especially on hunger are also hungry, but they have hope; the hope that they will be invited to help themselves of the crumbs. It is logical that those who benefit from the system and those who hope to benefit, pray that the situation does not change. So when they gather, the first request they make is: “Let us prey” Happy New Year 2019!
*This article originally appeared in the Vanguard Newspaper
Owei Lakemfa, a Prolific Writer and Vanguard Columnist, was a General Secretary of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).